Staying local in my neighbourhood

More about the bridge further down the page

Our world has shrunk again to a very small, very local area. Mark left the property this week for the first time since the Delta Covid outbreak started on August 17. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how he would cope with this new era of compulsory mask-wearing and scanning but he managed just fine. And if my Mark can cope with masks and scanning, so can everybody else. I know the rest of the world has been masked for the better part of the last 20 months but it is very new here, though I had our range of reusable, pretty masks at the ready.

On my weekly shopping trips (I am not just the designated shopper here, I am and always have been pretty much the only shopper), I have been amazed at the exceptional levels of compliance in our local areas. Everybody is not only masked, scanning and maintaining physical distancing, they are doing it with patience and good grace. Melbourne son keeps saying to me that New Zealanders are compliant people. I was surprised when he first said this because I do not think that we have a particularly compliant culture. Upon reflection, I don’t think what is happening here is unquestioning obedience. I think it is more about a shared vision and a strong sense of community and for that, we can thank the very clear messaging and communications from our government.  

Fingers crossed that this Delta incursion over our border can be eliminated in good time so that our garden festival can go ahead in just over seven weeks. I am hoping we can do it without needing to mask but, if necessary, we will mask and not complain.

In the meantime, special thanks and acknowledgement to Aucklanders. Yet again, Auckland is bearing the brunt of lockdown measures to keep the rest of the country safe and free from Covid and it is really hard. The rest of us need to be very grateful to them. The alternative of having Covid running through our country is grim, indeed.

My eyes have been focused locally on my once-a-week trip out to get essential supplies. Somebody had been clipping hard but with great precision on this driveway sited on the crest of small hill across the river from here. I don’t even know what those trees are. I didn’t get close enough to inspect but they certainly make a sharp statement. Are they incongruous in their rural setting or a really interesting contrast? I lean to the latter.

Rhododendron Kaponga

I spotted this red rhododendron last week and went back to have another look yesterday because I regretted not stopping at the time. Last week it was glowing brightly in the light, not quite so much yesterday but still bold and vibrant. It is a local selection of R. arboreum which is named ‘Kaponga’, renowned for its high health. When it comes to rhododendrons, those big ball trusses are not my personal favourite, but I couldn’t fault this handsome plant. The fact the property owners stained their fence dark rather than leaving it in its tanalised state helps show off all the plants to advantage.

In my local town, I stopped to photograph this handsome pair of red cordylines (cabbage trees) which look very sculptural in front of a fairly plain house. There are a number of named red forms available, but they are generally just selections of our native C. australis ‘Purpurea’. True, close up the foliage looks as chewed as all other NZ cordylines but that is because it is a native moth whose caterpillar munches on the leaves.

Almost opposite was a new garden which was really quite amazing. I think we could describe it as largely Italianate with a touch of pre-Raphaelite. I will say no more except to note that it has been constructed and furnished with much care and attention to detail and is clearly a source of pride to its owners.    

You do need to line up carefully. There is not a lot of room to spare.

Finally, back to the bridge at the top. It is the historic Bertram Road bridge, not far from us. I have a bit of a thing for bollards so I was delighted to find @WorldBollard on Twitter. It is the official account of the World Bollard Association (who knew?) and clearly over 30 000 other people have an interest in bollards, too.

There are eight bollards standing guard and all of them look something like this. Oh, the stories they could tell.

Bollards play an important role on this bridge. When it was restored and reopened to vehicle traffic, maybe back in the 2000s, the bollards were not quite as resolute as these current ones. But a stupid driver of a heavy transport truck thought he would ignore the warning signs and take a short cut over the bridge, demolishing the sides and a fair amount of the decking. Personally, I think he was lucky to get the truck off the bridge without it collapsing into the river because he far exceeded the allowable weight.

When the bridge was reinstated, the bollards were moved in to narrow the space further. Judging by the state of them, they have inflicted quite a lot of damage in the last few years as people have found their vehicles – particularly the modern twin cab utes – are too wide to fit. They are renowned too, I am told, for taking out wing mirrors.

It is just a question of lining the car up to stay very close on the driver’s side, keeping very straight and taking it slowly. Personally, I have never even brushed one of those bollards. Our Sydney daughter declared she would not be risking it herself when I took her over the new narrowed version on her last trip home.

From our neighbourhood to yours, stay safe. Fingers crossed for positive progress this week on dropping Covid case numbers down to low single figures.

Magnolia Milky Way – a Felix Jury hybrid – out the front of Pat’s place on the drive home
  • For overseas readers: we had one Covid incursion that escaped our border quarantine and that one single incident has so far produced 902 community cases. We know they all came from that one single infection because all cases are genomically sequenced in NZ. New daily infections had dropped to just 11 on Friday so Saturday’s 23 cases were a disappointment. That is over the entire country but we want it back to zero again. We are playing the long game here, playing for time to get the population vaccinated and also to see how Covid is going to pan out internationally before we risk opening the border without the current tight quarantine. ‘Learning to live with Covid’ still looks pretty undesirable when we have been so successful in learning to live without it.
Milky Way again

17 thoughts on “Staying local in my neighbourhood

  1. Christine Bebarfald

    Love your observations, accompanying pics and comments Abby, thank you for sharing them so regularly.

  2. Tim Dutton

    I rather like those clipped trees, but cannot imagine how someone could achieve such an effect on that scale! The white marble garden wouldn’t suit our location: all that white would be green with algae after a wet winter here.
    Here’s hoping the whole country is back to Level 2 for the Taranaki Festival, so Aucklanders can get down to see the gardens again, but I doubt it will be mask free. Having said that, it is pretty much all outdoors, so I’m not at all sure how the current Level 2 regulations would deal with it. At least we will both have had our second jabs by then.
    The bridge is a bit scary and Magnolia ‘Milky Way’ is a real delight. Our Magnolias are just starting to hit their stride this week and we have been very impressed with M. ‘Felix Jury’ which had flowered for the first time since we planted it just over a year ago. It should look spectacular when it is bigger.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      A thorough reading, Tim! Thanks for your comments. Though I think ‘marble’ might be overstating the Italianate garden. More likely paint, concrete, maybe faux marblette. Hopefully, Magnolia Felix Jury will go from strength to strength for you.

  3. Alex Ferens

    ‘I think it is more about a shared vision and a strong sense of community’

    So elegantly put and you’ve hit the nail on the head. I wish all kiwi could see our reality so clearly instead of being pulled into a left v right narrative. Love your words and love your work.

  4. Paddy Tobin

    It is a pity that reports of the Covid situation must pervade your blogs, Abbie, but it is a case that they “must” do so for we cannot avoid it. I felt the bridge and bollards were a great analogy to the quarantine situation – a strong defense is the best approach and NZ has taken the best possible actions to date – though I feel your rolling out of vaccination has been unnecessarily slow, an opportunity lost. Having said that, we are finding that the vaccine is not a guarantee of protection but simply a level of protection which for most people will mean they will not die nor, probably, not need to go to hospital. The vaccine will mitigate the effects of the virus but not protect against it completely.

    On gardening topics – the clipped trees do seem incongruous in a rural setting, though attractive – I recall the wonderful evergreen oak at the Villa Balbianello which takes heroic efforts to keep it in shape and has become an essential part of the scene there. Now, that other garden with the many white ornaments, pots etc! … what was the phrase a presenter of a gardening programme used for such – “an irritant to the retina!”

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Sorry about the Covid commentary, Paddy, but the majority of my readership is from NZ and we are all totally absorbed in thia country with the current situation and attempting to regain our Covid-free status. The publicity about our slow vaccine roll-out almost always fails to point out that it is because of supply delays. We are 100% dependent on international supply and until recently, the lion’s share of vaccines was grabbed by the big powers – The EC, USA, UK and Canada. Many less powerful countries were largely left out and the developing countries have received next to none. Australia is in the same boat as NZ – late supply and now in full swing. The international graphs show that NZ’s rollout is now faster than any other country, eclipsing even the UK rollout. We are getting a high uptake so optimistic of meeting pretty high vax rates and that should all be done in the next couple of months. But until the world gets behind vaccinating the largely forgotten developing countries, some degree of normality seems a long way away still.

      I didn’t get to Villa Balbianello. I took that morning off from our tour and Mark told me I had missed a treasure. He took photos of that oak and as I recall, clipping it every year took 4 men 6 weeks of work or some equally ludicrous statistic. Maybe it was 6 men and 3 or 4 weeks…. I felt the garden with the white ornaments needed more plants but each to their own.

      1. Paddy Tobin

        Have no concerns – discussions re Covid dominate our lives and even our gardening conversations so their inclusion in your latest reports are perfectly ordinary and to be expected. All of this is unfortunate but the reality of life nowadays and to be expected. Covid is an international phenomenon and is discussed worldwide! I now understand the situation re your vaccination programme and hope it progresses well and that all are safe and well. Tell Mark that I donned the mask and made a military-like speed raid on a local supermarket this afternoon and returned with enough chickens and joints of meat to fill the freezer – so that I won’t have to visit again for a good while. Our regular supermarket doesn’t stock a good quality chicken nor ham so we had to make this dash – and we returned safely!

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        We are a bit sensitive to overseas criticism here because we get so much of it. So many vested interests in us failing. I just wish they would shut up and watch from afar, treating NZ as a test case to be observed, not one to be critiqued at this time. The proof of success and failure will become very clear in the next few years and if NZ’s strategy of buying time is a failure, they can gloat all they like then. I see one of our TV channels has just given a prime spot to yet another American epidemiologist holding forth on how he has never supported the NZ approach of containment and elimination, based on his faulty assumption that this is our end-game and not just a strategy to buy time, keep people safe while keeping options open.
        In the meantime, Israel is making a huge contribution to observational data that is indicating trends. NZ is genome sequencing every case which gives a contained case study of how the virus spreads in a microcosm. There is much to be learned before this pandemic wanes and in preparation for the inevitable next one.
        Good to hear that you made a precision trip out into the dangerous world to stock up and made it back safely! We will never starve here, as long as we don’t lose electricity at least (in which case we could still survive on home-grown veg and fruit but we might be forced to eat wild rabbits, possums, quails and roadkill pheasants!)

      3. Paddy Tobin

        Observations on NZ here in Ireland tend towards envy and a certain anger that our politicians did not take the same course – being an island of similar population etc. However, our open border with Northern Ireland (which politically the Republic would never wish to see closed) meant that we could not cut ourselves off from the UK and effectively not at all. Political agendas ruled and health suffered. Many, a great many, would have preferred to had adopted a NZ approach.

      4. Abbie Jury Post author

        We have been lucky here that the Covid response and the vaccination programme have not been heavily politicised and polarised. The Opposition likes to criticise but overall, they indicate support for the broad policy. Not like the US and Brazil!

      5. Paddy Tobin

        Much the same here. The politics come into it when closing the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is considered. Aside from Covid, it makes for awkwardness especially in the movement of goods – I can’t order from UK suppliers as they can’t send to EU countries.

      6. Abbie Jury Post author

        I once spent an illuminating week in Northern Ireland as a guest of the British Foreign Office as part of a small group of internationals. In 1992. They shut us up in Stormont Castle for the first two days and “briefed” us with a very partisan version of history. We then had briefings from senior members of all political parties (though we had to organise the meeting with the Sinn Fein on Falls Road ourselves – the authorities thought it fine for the DUP to talk at us but not Sinn Fein). After several days of this, I could see no path to peace so I was astonished when a peace deal was brokered later. I understand what that border means. Mind you, I did think that all the Sinn Fein needed to do was a massive campaign to inform the rest of UK just how much every taxpayer was paying to maintain Nthn Ieland and I reckon public opinion would have seen a withdrawal pretty quickly. But however it was achieved, that peace and stability was hard won.

      7. Paddy Tobin

        Yes, indeed, it was hard won. Relationships between North and South have improved immensely and there is, at least, the feeling that we are one island if not one nation. There are many of the very best people, many of whom I know well and have the greatest respect for, who could not countenance any other political arrangement other than they remain within the UK and it is their right and their choice for the present situation to continue. I imagine the situation may change with the passing of years but I have no desire to rush it along. Peace, wellbeing and happiness are more important than a political arrangement. I would welcome a united Ireland but would not wish to force it.

  5. Diana Studer

    I admire NZ’s attitude to dealing with COVID.
    South Africa has had to wait SO LONG for vaccines, that altho our third wave is receding, it is still affecting many people as we catch up with getting vaccinated.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      The distribution of vaccines has been desperately uneven. While many countries have had extreme difficulty accessing them, those rich and powerful countries are discarding excess that have reached their use-by date. It is almost as if they think that Covid is a first world problem, only. Or as if they regard the populations from less privileged countries as expendable. Or maybe they just don’t think past their own borders. I did see South Africa’s very low vaccination rates come through on a chart. Pretty much all of Africa, as I recall. Stay safe.

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